In an assembly attended by several members, the Homonhon Environment Rescuers Organization (HERO last March 9 issued a resolution calling for the cessation of mining operations in their island.
“Supertyphoon Yolanda further confirmed our long-held assertions that mining in Homonhon will make us more vulnerable to disasters. Because of mining, the natural forest covers that protect us before are now denuded. This denudation also led to mudslides that affect most communities near mining sites,” said HERO president Billy Abueme.
Weeks ago, residents of nearby Manicani Island through the general assembly of Save Manicani Movement (SAMAMO) also released a resolution asking the government to decide with finality that mining must not be allowed in their island.
The assembly coincided with the scheduled visit of MISEREOR, led by its director-general Msgr. Pirmin Spiegel who gave additional dose of inspiration to SAMAMO members.
SAMAMO is planning to conduct an agency-hopping in Metro Manila to give them copies of an anti-mining petition signed by hundreds of islanders.
“Napakaliit ng isla namin. Binutas pa nila sa gitna at nagmukhang donut. Sa liit ng isla, lahat ng mga nakakalasong kemikal dulot ng pagmimina ay dumidiretso sa dagat at direktang nakakaapekto sa aming kabuhayan,” said Marcial Somooc, SAMAMO chairperson and a fisherman.
Fr. Oliver Castor, project officer for anti-mining campaign, explained that the Ramos administration, as mandated by the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992, declared the coastal areas of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, and the islands of Manicani, Candulo, Suluan, Tubabao, Calicoan, and Homonhon as protected landscapes and seascapes through Presidential Proclamation No. 469 signed in September 26, 1994.
“Mining should not have been started in Homonhon and Manicani in the first place. This area, collectively known as the Guiuan Marine Reserve, is very crucial in the supply of fish and other aquatic resources in our country. No wonder that PP 469 explicitly stated that any activity which could disturb or destroy these ecosystems is prohibited,” Castor furthered.
Bishop Varquez speaks
“Marine life in areas which are declared protected is affected by the heavy siltation from the downstream flow of water from the mining operations especially during the rainy season. In Manicani, the prior rights of the people there had been subverted by Hinatuan Mining before and now by Samar Nickel Mining Resources Corporation with their mining rights,” Borongan Bishop Crispin Varquez added.
Varquez further explained that the granting of the mining rights to HMC and eventually SNMR is problematic since “social forestry agreement issued to Manicani-based beneficiaries during the time of President Cory Aquino remains in effect and the covered area of the said forestry program is the same area applied for mining”.
Castor also shared that his consultation with Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Leo Jasareno strengthened PMPI’s assertion as the director himself encouraged the group to help HERO and SAMAMO to pursue the cancellation of all mining operations in their respective islands.
Abueme, meanwhile, lamented the fact that the documents of their complaints against mining in Homonhon were one of the casualties of Yolanda as the supertyphoon swept through the municipality of Guiuan.
“That is very unfortunate but we will continue our struggle. The reality is that the national government declared our island as part of a protected marine reserve. We deem that we only need to remind them to implement the law and we are confident that they will side with us. Because if they won’t, our laws will look like suggestions instead of being rules that everyone must abide,” Abueme concluded.